The majority of tiger safaris take place in India in their national parks and tiger reserves, all now protected since 1971 when the new prime minister, Indira Gandhi went on a mission to stop the devastating demise of tigers by setting up Project Tiger, which still exists today, but is more commonly known as the National Tiger Conservation Authority. Tiger safaris have, therefore, become fairly bureaucratic, which is why you need to book well in advance and use an experienced operator to ensure you get the best possible experience out of what will be, for most people, a long awaited dream come true.
And when that dream becomes reality, you will need to spend at least four or five days in tiger watching landscapes to allow for a sighting. Ideally you will be staying in a lodge, in the immediate environs of the tiger reserve so that you can start your game drive early.
In India, tiger safaris generally take place in an open jeep, a minibus known as a canter or, less common nowadays, on the back of an elephant. Known as ‘tiger shows’, these are controversial, as discussed in our ‘issues’ section, however these treks have become an important source of income for tiger conservation in some parks in India. In general, outside national parks that provide tiger safaris, we do not support elephant trekking at Responsible Travel. Read our guide on elephant conservation
In any case, you get much better interpretation and wildlife knowledge from a guide on a jeep tour, as elephant guides are ‘mahouts’ or elephant trainers, where the focus is on controlling the elephant rather than promoting the environment. An ideal number of people in your jeep is four, keeping the noise impact to a minimum and also ensuring you comfort on the game drive. In more remote tiger habitats, such as in Nepal, Bhutan and Siberia, exploring by foot is more common.